HB 623 Loses Sight of Early Childhood Education

Santa Fe, N.M. – HB 623, which was hastily introduced on the last eligible day to introduce legislation this session, proposes creating a new council that would oversee the workforce development and training of New Mexico’s childcare workers, duplicating the efforts of existing governance committees in the state such as the New Mexico Early Learning Advisory Council. The bill will be heard in the House Education Committee Saturday morning.

The bill would wipe out the current contracting for existing early childhood education and care providers, eliminate the successful curriculum for early education used by licensed providers and public schools, and create an industry standard minimum wage for childcare workers.

Instead, NMCCEA is throwing its support behind SB 22, which would create a new department to oversee childcare and education services for children from birth to five-years-old.

Under HB 623, licensed centers would be forced to reapply for funding; many of the centers are providing quality NM PreK programming for three- and four-year olds throughout the state.

“This proposal would hurt children,” said Crystal Tapia, executive director of Noah’s Ark Children’s Academy and Policy Chair of the New Mexico Child Care and Education Association. “It would eliminate a quality curriculum and workforce training program that took years to develop and is proven. Instead of finding a way to expand PreK, this bill would knock back our curriculum standards.”

New Mexico developed its FOCUS system in 2012 and received a $37.5 million federal Race to the Top grant in 2013 to implement the FOCUS curriculum, raise the quality of early learning programs, and raise quality through professional development.

“FOCUS is a great curriculum because it is offers education standards for all children younger than five with a focus on preparing them for kindergarten and grade school education,” said Lupe Nevarez, CEO of The Children’s Garden in Las Cruces. “Kindergarten teachers are also trained in FOCUS so they know what to expect from incoming students.”

FOCUS is not just an education curriculum, it also outlines workforce solutions and mentorship programs for childcare and education industry workers by providing training and incentives to retain a high-quality early education workforce.

“As an industry, we seek ways to bolster our workforce and create career pathways for our workers,” said Angela Garcia, owner and financial administrator of The Toy Box in Las Cruces. “The existing FOCUS curriculum is great because it doesn’t make decisions about the childcare and education workforce in a vacuum as HB 623 proposes, but rather considers workforce retention, higher education, and growth in the context of child wellbeing.”

HB 623 would totally eliminate the FOCUS curriculum.

Creating a new Early Childhood Care and Education Department would consolidate resources for early childhood education and workforce development into one department. The new department would also be able to expand NM PreK to more of New Mexico’s young children, something that has been touted by Governor Lujan-Grisham as a priority. NMCCEA supports SB 22.

“Our legislators shouldn’t be sidetracked by a bill that duplicates existing oversight and eliminates contracts for licensed providers,” said Tapia. “We need to focus on creating a high-quality education system for our youngest children.”

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